I won’t be surprised if this is one of my longest posts this summer. I have a lot to write about. I woke up in a cold sweat at 4am from a bad dream and couldn’t fall back asleep. This has been happening a lot this trip. Maybe it’s nerves. Maybe it’s homesickness. Maybe it’s the grizzlies. I didn’t want to start hiking too early so I waited until 6 to unzip my bivy and say hello to the world. I was first out of camp at 6:20 and started the 5.6 mile climb to the top of the pass and the first view of the Chinese Wall, the main attraction for today. 3.6 miles in, I stop for some water at a beautiful spring flowing right out of the side of the mountain. I’m sitting there, minding my own business, when out of nowhere I hear a twig snap behind me, just up trail. I snap my head around to see a grizzly bear running away. It must have been within 20-30 feet of me. I haven’t felt a rush of adrenaline like that in a long time. I guess I didn’t smell too appetizing. Within the next minute Rob and Trashalope come walking up and I tell them about the frightening experience. We finished the climb to the top of the pass together. Getting to the top of the pass was no easy feat though. We started seeing a lot of snow about a mile from the top and it was a slippery mess but it didn’t slow us down too much. Once at the top, the three of us and Approach spread our stuff out to dry from the rain last night and enjoyed our first break. The sun was out, the view was magnificent and we had little to complain about. Spirits were high! I was feeling pretty energetic today, despite my lack of sleep, so I took off down trail by myself before anyone else. “What are the odds I see two grizzlies in one day?” I said to myself as I started down the trail alone. The next 8 miles were some of the most beautiful trail I have ever hiked but that didn’t come with a price. They were also completely covered in snow. The few times there wasn’t snow, the trail was a river of snowmelt. It was exhausting on my feet, ankles, and knees as I slipped and slid up and down the hills. The Chinese Wall is a masterpiece of geology that I will let Wikipedia explain to you in more detail. There are some pictures below. Once I got through all of the snow, I hurried another 4.1 miles to a backcountry Ranger Hut for a nice break. The three others came strolling in over the next 30 minutes and we all relaxed for a while. We only had another 7.5 miles before we reached our major milestone for the day. These 7.5 miles were gentle rolling hills with minimal blow downs but several creek crossings without a way to cross dry. When we took our next break at the end of this stretch, our feet were soaked and pruny. It looked like we had all been swimming for hours. We all had different plans for the rest of the evening and the next day. Approach and Rob were staying on trail and taking a left turn at the next junction. This is the way most people go but Trashalope and I had different plans. He was going to camp within a mile of our break spot then follow in my footsteps on an alternate. I took the shortest break and took a right turn at the junction leading me into unknown territory. I like the idea of taking an alternate, plus it saved me close to 14 miles versus the way Approach and Rob were going. I had little idea what the trail would look like, where the water was and how difficult it would be to follow. We knew other people had done it successfully and not regretted it so I knew it couldn’t be too bad. I left the break spot at 6:30, cut through some horse pasture and by a cabin, then started climbing along a river until I stopped to eat dinner around 8. I had a new concoction that Approach inspired me to try: Broccoli cheddar soup mix with broccoli cheddar instant rice. It was great! I’ll definitely be having it again. After finishing dinner, I started looking for water and a place to sleep. I was thirsty and tired. But I ended up hiking a little further than I intended because I saw another bear! Luckily this one was a solo black bear that didn’t seem to pay any attention to me. It was across the creek and up the hill with plenty of distance between the two of us. This was the motivation I needed to hike later into the evening. I ended up finding a nice campsite around 9pm and there is water that I’ll be able to collect in the morning. Today was probably my best day on trail so far despite the poor sleep, bear scares, miles of snow and constant wet feet. I think all thru hikers are slightly masochistic. We kind of have to be to get through some of the days we have out here. But today will be one of the days I remember for a long time. I’m glad I was able to share most of it with my friends and we all had a great time! I hope to do another big day tomorrow, probably around 35 miles. This will set me up to hopefully get to town the day after. Shoutout to Matt and his amazing playlist creativity. I listened to his “Juicy Bangers” playlist that has songs that have to do with fruit; with classics such as Banana Pancakes, Escape (The Pina Colada Song), and Watermelon Sugar.
Miles: 37.5 Total Miles: 247.8
Elevation of Camp: 5,590’